Rodney returns to Minnesota, now a key piece of Oakland bullpen

Published 10:11 pm Friday, August 24, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s Target Field was the perfect place for Fernando Rodney to perform his patented post-save celebrations, when the 41-year-old right-hander leans back to pretend he’s pulling a bow and shoots an imaginary arrow high into the sky.

There’s a bright red bulls-eye, the ubiquitous logo for the retail chain that has Target Field’s naming rights, looming on a billboard above right-center field. That gave Rodney a place to aim. His abbreviated season with the Twins was mostly a hit, too.

The Oakland Athletics had bigger plans for 2018, though. They brought Rodney back to Minnesota this weekend as one of several stalwarts in their sturdy bullpen next to Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, Jeurys Familia and Yusmeiro Petit. Treinen has 32 saves for the A’s. Rodney (25) and Familia (17) combined for 42 saves with the Twins and New York Mets before arriving in separate trades.

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“I’m chilling. I’m relaxing. No pressure on myself because we’ve got Familia, we’ve got all these guys that have got stuff to close the game and to beat Houston,” Rodney said in the visitors’ dugout before Thursday’s game.

The A’s took a one-game deficit behind the Houston Astros in the AL West into the evening.

In his first six appearances for Oakland, Rodney allowed only three hits without a run while striking out four.

“He’s been absolutely terrific. For a guy that’s used to pitching the ninth inning, we’ve asked him to do some different things here and he’s had absolutely no problem with it at all,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Pitching a down game yesterday, so he just wants to come in and contribute however he can. He’s got a really good personality to him. He fit in really well with the guys and, obviously, he’s been a significant factor for us.”

Rodney had six blown save chances with the Twins and had his share of shaky conversions, too, but for a $4.25 million salary the Twins were willing to sign up for that experience because they had confidence in his, well, experience.

“We’re like family,” Rodney said. “We had a lot of fun together, me and those guys.”

At Rodney’s request, the Twins produced a special introduction video for his appearances, set to the rap song “Live the Night .” He said he was working with the A’s to assemble a montage that could be played at the Oakland Coliseum.

As for those arrows, which have been in storage now that he’s not usually working in the ninth inning?

“We save the arrow for the postseason,” Rodney said.

That’s the whole reason he’s with the A’s. There’s a team option on his contract for 2019 at a below-market rate of $4.25 million, so the Twins could’ve hung onto him despite their housecleaning that took place before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. But once they found a satisfactory offer from the A’s in minor-league pitcher Dakota Chalmers, they thought highly enough of Rodney to be willing to deal him to a contender.

“I think I’ll keep fighting, keep playing baseball and try to come back next year,” Rodney said. “I don’t know what team, but next year I think I’ve got a chance again, and I want to do it.”